RIGHT ON CUE and tossing around big money as though it were throwaway bottles and cans, the litter lobby comes to Annapolis -- geared up for another high-powered effort to sink a bill that would curb the state's traffic in trash. Led by the highest-paid lobbyist in the state capital, representatives of groups that make millions of dollars dealing in throwaways are working the halls in search of lgislators who might fall for a substitute bill they are pushing. But the measure that deserves passage this year more than ever is one requiring that soft-drink and beer containers be returnables instead of throwaways.
It is more than a matter of trash, for the "bottle Bill" makes sense from the standpoints of energy policy, consumer savings, employment and conservation. But the glass-and -metal industries are extolling the virtues of a "litter/recycling law" or "litter tax" on businesses such as steel manufacturers and beer distributors that contribute to the state's litter problems. The money collected, about $2 million a year, would be used in a massive clean-up campaign and to create recycling centers.
What a fiendishly clever idea: instead of going along with a deposit bill that would offer geniune incentives to people to return containers, the industries prefer to cough up $2 million in taxes every year for regular roundups of the very trash that they would continue to manufacture and sell at a profit. No wonder this concept has received such a chilly reception in the latest annual report of the Council on environmental Quality; and no wonder the staff of a Cabinet-level committee points to deposit legislation as a far better way to reduce waste of all kinds.
These federal sutdies indicate savings not only in the volume of litter, but also in the comsumption of steel and aluminum, which could reduce bauxite imports considerably. Contrary to what the industry and related unions are arguing, deposit laws do not result in a net loss of jobs, either. Maryland's Department of Community (and Economic Development estimates that the state could realize a net gain of more than 3,700 jobs.
Besides saving taxpayers the costs of governments' collecting all those bottles and cans, it stands to reason that beverages in reusable containers can be sold at lower prices than comparable amounts in brand-new metal or glass containers. This is why a broad coalition of Maryland organizations -- including environmental and farm groups the League of Women Voters, education associations and Jaycees -- is trying so hard to upset the heavily financed industry lobby and win enactment of a deposit law this year. If enough members of the General Assembly closely examine the phony scare-talk and smokescreen proposals being pushed by this lobby, aneffective deposit law could become a reality in Maryland at last.